Tuesday, July 24, 2012

University of Pennsylvania

I signed on with the University of Pennsylvania using the new online university service Coursera. The first module I have opted to take is Listening To World Music taught by Professor of Music and ethnomusicologist Dr. Carol Muller.  I had expected these free courses, which cannot count towards any formal qualification, to be fairly simple stuff. I am very pleased to find though that the lectures, while easy to understand, are pitched at a fairly high level.

In the opening lectures, which are all delivered in short video sections, Dr. Muller talked about Arjan Appadurai and his theories of social rupture. I am already slightly familiar with Appadurai from module A151 with The Open University in which his book The Social Life of Things features prominently so the music lecture held some relevant crossover points with the material culture studies I am doing.

Coursera works by delivering video lectures with short quizzes and then writing a weekly essay which will be peer reviewed - your own essay will only be reviewed if you have reviewed someone else's work. I am not sure how well this will work to be honest, you can really only mark something correctly if you really understand the subject and know the answers.

This week's questions (choose one of) are...

Week 1 Questions
1) Appadurai argues that modernity is a form of rupture in everyday life, and that the experience of modernity is now globally present.  Moving places is one such form of rupture.  If you are from a family or community that has made significant moves in the last several decades—from rural to urban areas, from one country or continent to another--ask members of your family/group, if music provided a means to maintaining a connection between past and present places of residence and how it has done so--live performance, recordings, human travel? Has music worked to maintain your language of origin? How else might it have worked as a connective tissue in the move or significant moment of rupture?

2) Steven Feld argues that some ethnomusicologists who have studied traditional music have expressed a certain anxiety about commercial market forces in relation to 'traditional' and 'local' music-cultural practices. Others celebrate the potential for intercultural communication and collaboration that made possible with new forms of musical travel. In what ways do you think processes and forms of mass mediation have changed in the last two decades? How might these changes confirm, challenge, or otherwise problematize the anxiety/celebratory takes on musical change? How might contemporary forms of mass media affect our understanding of 'local' or 'traditional' musical practice? Such newer forms of mass media might include the internet, file-sharing, YouTube, iPods, Tablets, etc.: what others can you think of?

3) Find youtube examples of the three forms of authenticity outlined in this lecture segment, and explain how they are articulated in the clip.  It maybe that there are only one or two of these authenticities expressed in the clip.   How does the presence of authenticity contribute to the power of the music for you as a listener/consumer?

4) Watch this clip about the commercial recording of Gregorian chant by a German monastic order.  It provides a parallel example of commodification of the sacred to the earlier “Chant” recording.  It presents a narrative of monastic life and deep history, the place of prayer, work and ritual in that life.  Comment on the discourses of the sacred, the commodity, authenticity, the miraculous, new technologies, commercial success; on Father Karl, the narrator’s story and rationalization for inserting Chant into the commercial marketplace.  What do you think is to be gained by this process, and what might be lost?  How does the music work for the monks?  Is it the same as for the consumer?  Gregorian chant by the monks of Heiligenkruez

It is going to be hard getting this done alongside my Open University commitments. I will have a go at question 4 if I can find time.

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